A Technologist Goes to Washington

Why I’m Going to Work at the White House

The White House

Soon I will be reporting to the White House, rolling up my sleeves, and getting to work. I’m going because I believe in the value of American democracy and the power of public services to make a real difference in the lives of real people. I’m going because I believe in building meaningful coalitions which include diverging viewpoints and are representative of all Americans.

America is a great country. While its history is not without blemish, our society was built by people. And though people are by nature imperfect, there is no denying we have much to be proud of. America has a functioning civil society, a government that works with a system of checks and balances, and a professional service economy which facilitates the timely exchange of goods and services. We have decent roads, running electricity, Internet access, and a literacy rate in the 90th percentile. We hold democratic elections regularly and peacefully transition power, on schedule, once the ballot box has spoken.

As a public servant, I believe firmly in my duty to provide the highest quality of service because my customers are taxpaying Americans. As a technologist, I have been frustrated, at almost every turn on my service path, by inefficiencies in how our government procures and deploys IT solutions. The same model used for buying helicopters should not be used to build a website or a mobile application. Technology has fundamentally changed every aspect of how Americans interact; economically and socially, professionally and personally. Yet many government interactions remain clunky and analog. This growing disparity is one we can no longer ignore. In 2018 every business requires a strong technology infrastructure and those unable to develop accordingly are destined for failure. Public service is no different.

The Executive Office of the President recognizes this incredible need and the urgency of rapidly modernizing the federal IT landscape. Starting with projects that provide the greatest impact to the greatest number of people in the greatest need, the US Digital Service is a three-year-old, lean startup within the federal government. Their first project was the rescue of healthcare.gov in the wake of its day zero disaster. Since then they have gone on to partner with a number of federal agencies, working to identify IT projects which pose significant risks to national security, increase access to government services, and streamline operations to save taxpayer dollars.

I am proud to be joining this team, proud to be representing the diversity I contribute to America, and eager to work side-by-side with some of the greatest minds in tech on the biggest problems facing federal IT and the American people. On this next chapter of my public service journey, I bear firmly in mind the experiences of where I come from and where I’ve been. I will never use my skills for evil, to discriminate, or to harm. I have taken an oath to uphold the constitution of the United States and am a stalwart steward of the public trust bestowed upon me. Thank you for your support and I look forward to continuing to serve America in the best way I can.

Code & Coffee: Uptown Brigade

In September 2017, I launched an edition of Code & Coffee in Uptown– my neighborhood in Chicago. In collaboration with my friend and colleague, Ryan Koch, we have launched a weekly meetup for the technology community in our neighborhood. In three month’s time, the group on meetup has grown from zero to 136 members, we have begun a civic technology project in collaboration with the Chicago Public Library, and built an inclusive, diverse community composed of diverse ethnicities, gender identities, and faiths. Our small but mighty group was invited to participate in the Code for America Brigade Congress and gained the attention and support of our local Alderman’s office in securing local government buy-in for our civic hacking projects.

Due to demand, we have expanded our twice-per-month co-working event to a weekly gathering at Emerald City Uptown and begun to pioneer an evening edition dubbed Bytes & Beer in collaboration with the Uptown Arcade.

In addition to the resource portal for underserved residents in our neighborhood and have been asked by the Chicago Public Schools to breathe new life into our neighborhood public school’s website.

I am proud of the eclectic group’s diversity not only in terms of technology stacks but racial and ethnic diversity, gender inclusiveness, age, and socioeconomic inclusiveness. Future goals include partnering with other community organizations such as TransTech Social and the Center on Halsted to reach broader and more diverse groups of technologists.

Check out our website and join us on Slack!

Crypto Party: 3 Easy Steps You Can Take Right Now to Improve Your Online Privacy

The title of this post is inspired by Crypto Parties, groups committed to promoting digital privacy for normal people. With more of our lives online now than ever, the potential for compromising data to be leaked is more frightening and possible than ever. Cryptography isn’t something reserved for government spooks, criminal hackers, or computer nerds. It’s something we should all be taking seriously. And it’s not as hard as you think! Here are three simple actions you can take right now, in less than 20 minutes, which will dramatically improve the safety of your online activities, personal information, and communications.

1. Use Signal as an SMS replacement. With iPhone, Android, and desktop apps, there is no reason not to. Signal allows you to send text, group, voice, video, and picture messages around the world. You can even make encrypted voice calls to other users— albeit the feature works best over wifi. It’s completely free, open source, and operated by Open Whisper Systems, a project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for Internet privacy rights.

2. Route your web traffic through a VPN. A virtual private network, a VPN encrypts data in a secure pipeline between your device and the VPN server, ideally located somewhere else. The remote server then processes your requests, obtains the data you requested, and routes it back to you over the same encrypted tunnel. Some things to look for in a good VPN service:

  • transparency about where the servers are located, make sure the service is headquartered in a jurisdiction that does not require service providers to keep your personal information. You probably don’t want a Russian or Chinese VPN for example.
  • some assurance of what happens to traffic logs. All servers have the capability to log traffic requests, IP data, and other PII. A good VPN provider does not store this information for longer than 24 hours to allow site reliability engineers to troubleshoot any possible network issues.

I recommend VPN Unlimited, a product of KeepSolid. The service supports macOS, Windows, iOS, Android, and several other platforms natively. And they have a pricing model that allows for unlimited, lifetime usage for a flat fee. If you have fewer than five devices a one-time charge buys you lifetime protection. PC Magazine gives them their Editor’s Choice Award so you don’t just have to take my word for it.

3. Consider protecting your HTTP traffic. In a “man-in-the-middle” attack, a hacker spoofs a host address and intercepts your data. They can even send back fake data, a website with false information for example, claiming to be a legitimate company. This is easy to do on public wifi and there are tools like Cain & Abel freely available to download. This is not sophisticated: I was doing this kind of attack as a high school student. Enforcing HTTPS is a way to deter hackers with malicious intent from sifting through your web traffic.

HTTPS is a form of the hypertext transfer protocol, the “S” stands for “secure.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation makes a simple browser extension called HTTPS Everywhere. This extension, which works in Chrome, Firefox, and Opera (no Safari, sorry), takes an extra step to rewrite standard HTTP requests as HTTPS requests. The project also makes it easy for webmasters to learn about how to deploy HTTPS on their websites to protect their users from potentially harmful attacks, thus growing the body of content on the web that supports HTTPS requests.

This article in Entrepreneur takes a less technical and more enterprise approach to the distinction. This may be something worth considering if you own a website. I’ve been using Github Pages for hosting lately because it’s completely free and supports static pages. Did I mention it’s free? (I recognize this blog doesn’t use HTTPS yet, I’m working on it).

Bonus Content

In the wake of Edward Snowden’s reveals, a movement called CryptoParty has spring up with clones in many cities around the world. A grassroots endeavor, these parties promote adoption of basic, practical cryptography. You can find an event near you. Some technologies CryptoParties promote:

  • Tor anonymity network Tor = “the onion router” which is an analogy for the layers of an onion. Tor relays are open nodes that operate around the world with the single goal of routing anonymized web traffic. These servers are also the gateways to the “deep web” (websites that end in .onion TLDs which cannot be accessed from the “regular” Internet). Tor relays do not keep connection or traffic logs. The Tor browser is a Firefox clone which can be downloaded to your computer and used to surf the web anonymously. Tor is NOT a replacement for a VPN. Tor should never be used to transmit PII. Tor promises anonymity, not privacy. Since Tor nodes are open to the public and due to their anonymous nature, we can never know who is watching. Use it for looking up “alternative facts” which could raise red flags from your home or work network. For example, I have used it to research recruitment tactics of extremist groups in order to better understand how to disrupt them. But I don’t use it for ordering from Amazon.
  • TAILS is a complete operating system which is build atop the Linux kernel. TAILS routes ALL network traffic through the Tor network. Unless you have a dedicate “anonymous browsing” machine, it’s not practical to install on local disk as a primary operating system. I keep it on a bootable USB drive which I used once to do research on the dark web. I prefer this setup for exploring the dark web because it makes it very easy to “get out” if I’m compromised by accidentally stumbling upon a malicious application. If you want a bootable TAILS drive that will work from any computer, I can make one for you. Using TAILS is a fun learning exercise but I struggle to find “everyday practicality” because I’m not peddling wares on the dark web.
  • Key signing parties — PGP works because you have a “public key” and a “private key,” by verifying the identity of a person and their private key, we can be sure that the communication pipeline between the two parties is secure. Signal has a neat built-in feature for doing this and alerts you when the key of someone you’re communicating with has changed— an indicator that their device may have been compromised or a third-party is attempting to spoof their identity.
  • Disk encryption — If you’re on MacOS, there is a feature in your settings which allows full disk encryption. On my MacBook Pro, I’ve been using this feature for a few months and don’t notice any real performance hits. The operating system decrypts your disk once you log in, so it might take a fraction of a second longer after you type your password. If you’re on Windows or Linux, TrueCrypt is a standup option which has received a lot of praise in the tech world.

The right to be protected from government snooping is enshrined in the fourth amendment of the Bill of Rights and it’s something I personally take very seriously. Until recently cybersecurity was complicated and inconvenient. It is also our responsibility as users of the Internet to protect ourselves from those who seek to steal, cheat, or otherwise cause harm. With more and more sensitive, personally identifying, and financial data online every day, inaction is the only foolish choice.

Any thoughts? Concerns? Questions? Corrections? Leave them in the comments!

It’s Working! ChiPy Mentorship Next Steps

This triumphant scene is from everyone’s favorite installment of Star Wars: when young Anakin Skywalker, played by Jake Lloyd, fires up his pod-racer for the first time– and it works! The sentiment is akin to running a program, again, and for the first time, returning the desired results instead of error messages.

Well folks, 13 weeks later, I’ve gone from a tinkering script kiddie to a Padawan of the Jedi Arts software development. Some really serious interpersonal changes have happened in a relatively short amount of time:

  1. I came to the ChiPy Spring Mentorship Program with low confidence. I’ve always wanted to be a programmer but high expectations and hyper-critical energy from my folks growing up instilled the idea that I couldn’t ever do it.
  2. Surprised that I even got accepted, I began to struggle with imposter syndrome. While not the first time in my life I’ve experienced such a phenomenon, this is the first time that people I respect and look up to have acknowledged the real battle within. My formal mentor Chris as well as Ray the program coordinator, other mentees, and ChiPy members have made me feel welcome, valued, and capable of participating in this environment.
  3. After all these years letting the creative, innovative part of my brain stagnate, for the first time I feel energized, empowered, and excited to be working on things that fuel and thrive off this type of energy.

That said, I’ve also gotten some serious work done through the mentorship program; three projects to be precise. Chances are, without the structure, rigor, and support of the program, I’d still be struggling to get my first project off the ground. So what DID we do anyway?

  1. Used Python’s CSV library to create a script that automates a previously manual, inventory review process at my day job. The labor intensive process took several hours each week to resolve and the simple script has shaved at least 5 hours per week off my workload. Getting this out of the way first not only was a powerful learning experience but gave me the opportunity to free up more time to study and code.
  2. Using the Requests framework and some API endpoints, build a command line tool which keeps track of the running total cost of meetings attended by federal employees.
  3. Hot on the heels of the meeting tracker command line script, my mentor introduced me to Falcon, a microframework for developing APIs. Using gunicorn and Falcon, I turned the command line script into a microservice which accepts JSON input. I am currently working on a React.js front-end which can connect to the microservice. Any front-end tips/ tricks/ pointers would be most welcome! You can access the microservice on Heroku. It accepts JSON input like in this sample.

This Friday I am leaving for vacation in Alaska with my sister. Even though I will miss the final ChiPy meeting of the mentorship, I am so excited to share with you all a video of my progress and celebrate our monumental successes alongside my peers.

There is a lot of momentum right now and while I am still learning not to compare my progress to other people’s, the ChiPy Mentorship has helped me grow as a person as well as a programmer. I am excited to continue learning about this field, sharing my progress, and seeking the advice and camaraderie of fellow developers.

As an avid scuba diver and student of Buddhism, the journey has reminded me of this powerful Confucian mantra.

Falcon, JSON, APIs, Oh My!

This is the final blog post of the ChiPy 2017 Spring Mentorship, but the experience is far from over! I began the program as a timid, self-concious, and novice programmer. Only one of these three conditions remains true. While I might not be an independently amazing, full-stack developer just yet, the weeks which have transpired since the beginning of the mentorship. Not only do I feel confident I know how to reason my way through most Python-related problems, given some time I can definitely even figure out the implementation!

I have learned how to use Git, set up virtual environments, edit my terminal colors in the bash config file, and gained practice making two command-line tools. The struggle to overcome imposter syndrome continues, yet my proficiency is growing– which makes me feel proud of my effort and grateful to the program for the opportunity to …. program.

So what’s new since last time?

I still have two primary projects contained within the scope of the mentorship. The inventory reconciliation script and the federal employee meeting cost calculator. Since we talked last time, the meeting cost calculator has grown a bit. Since the dataset containing federal employee locations, grades, and salaries is incomplete when looking up individuals by name, a workaround is to query the API using the individuals’ grade and step, equivalent to a rank in the armed forces. This method always returns some non-zero integer which directly addresses a major design flaw in the previous version.

The next step now is using Falcon instead of Requests (process outlined in the first ChiPy blog post). Falcon is a WSGI framework which allows for the construction of speedy APIs to handle simple HTTP verbs: GET, POST, PUT/PATCH, DELETE.

Falcon-on-a-perch

A falcon

So why do this if the program was essentially working before using the Requests framework? Sure, the program “worked,” i.e. a proof-of-concept was created. The goal now is to improve usability of the application and even build a JavaScript front-end that can be presented to the group on July 6!

The program working as a command line script. Dreaming of a day when it can be accessed from the web!

Here’s a sneak peek— but take note that it doesn’t work yet! There are even some lovely notes from my epic mentor Chris Foresman for your enjoyment. Chris was generous to gift me 500 hours of Heroku Cloud Application Platform so we can get it launched!

Happy coding!

#ApplyingForRmotr Advanced Python Course

This post is the third component of my scholarship application for the RMOTR Coding Bootcamp Advanced Python Course <https://rmotr.com/advanced-python-programming>.

#ApplyingForRmotr

Hot on the heels of the ChiPy Mentorship Program, I am proud to have worked on several projects automating the inventory reconciliation process at work and holding federal employees accountable for taxpayer dollars spent in meetings. I have even been volunteering my fledgling skills on a collaborative civic tech project to preserve the public record of presidential Tweets.

I am ready to take my learning to the next level– with the intention of seeking full-time, junior development roles in the technology sector. The Rmotr Advanced Python Course serves this purpose. I believe the flexibility of being a remote course, coupled with the rigorous curriculum and cohort structure, ensures a good fit with my mobile, millennial lifestyle. The course also speaks to making serious headway towards my goal of becoming a professional in fast-moving, creative, and rapidly growing software industry.

The Rmotr Advanced Python Course stands to deepen my knowledge in a variety of key topics such as nested functions, advanced argument passing, special attributes (i.e. dunder attributes: __name__, __doc__, __etc__). Further parts of the curriculum which I find exciting are the topics in Advanced Object Oriented programming such as “magic” methods and polymorphism. Finally, I believe the emphasis placed on context managers and file handing can help me with my presidential Twitter robot project and while I have some experience with Falcon APIs and gunicorn, I have yet to scratch the surface with Pythonic webdev and Flask.

These components of the course stand to empower me with a deeper understanding of computer programming in Python. While I know I will gain much from the collaborative, supportive, team environment promoted by Rmotr, I am also prepared to be an active student and a strong contributor to my cohort. I am excited to jump in and thrive from the energy put put by fellow motivated, smart, digital professionals and I look forward to getting my hands dirty, up to my elbows in code, in an upcoming section of Rmotr’s Advanced Python Course.

The second part of the scholarship application was to make a 1-minute video demonstrating me teaching a skill I am familiar with. Here I am demonstrating the usage of the simple, palm-heel strike in a self-defense context. In Karate we say “1000 times a punch,” meaning it takes thousands of repetitions to be able to deliver an effective punch that does not cause harm to the wielder of the weapon. The palm-heel strike can be learned in one minute and applied in the next minute, if necessary. In this video, I show you how!

On Learning Python: Pixie Killing, Imposter Syndrome

Adventures with Python continued this past month with the Chicago Python Mentorship Program. I’m pleased to announce significant progress with two projects that have been the focus of my participation, both the inventory control script for my work and a meeting cost calculator for Federal employees. However, the biggest gains in the past month manifest not in lines of code, but rather feeling for the first time that, I can do this.

Over cookies and coffee with Ray Berg, Braintree Developer and Mentorship Coordinator, we carefully unpacked two concepts that have been key to my participation as a mentee: pixie killing and the imposter syndrome. In my last post, I referenced my fascination with the “magic” of technology. Crediting my mentor, Chris Foresman, an amazing brain and computer scientist for Sprout Social, I have been able to learn a tremendous amount about why these lines of code I type into Atom can direct a computer to behave in a certain way– accomplishing complex tasks automatically. While True: this does take some of the sorcery out of technology, it has made me a more competent and confident budding programmer.

Confidence is key to being successful in this (or any field). The Atlantic wrote recently about a confidence gap that exists between equally qualified women and men performing the same work. Making the decision to build my skill set and move towards the tech industry has raised a lot of questions. Can I even do this? What am I doing here trying to talk the talk with so many well-qualified and experienced programmers? Am I an imposter? Imposter syndrome is a real issue defined by the American Psychological Association. And the issue of feeling like a fraud isn’t new, even in the wild west of software engineering.

http://pre11.deviantart.net/a182/th/pre/i/2010/120/b/c/the_imposter_by_yastach.jpg

There are lots of folks willing to help overcome these issues of confidence and self-doubt in the computing community. If you’re a mentee in the program and this is on your mind, let’s talk about it! Or talk to your mentor. Or one of the coordinators. You can also look here. Or here. Or here.

Additionally, this is the first time that I’ve built a program that carries out several complex tasks simultaneously in order to return the desired output. Several times throughout the process I found myself feeling overwhelmed, confused, lost, and generally anguished. But yet again, I was reminded that I’m not alone in facing these challenges. In addition to the helpful community on Slack, Chris introduced me to a new strategic approach to programming, “chunking.” Essentially breaking up the larger program into smaller, more manageable components, testing these components individually, and then, once working integrating them with other “chunks” of code to hack together a working prototype. Chunking is also an excellent way to debug when errors happen. Directing the computer to return information that the program ought to have gathered by certain points in the operation, the savvy programmer can better see where the error might be originating.

Cool, so I learned some stuff. But what have I actually done with it? Part of my job used to involve a tedious, weekly manual review of inventory manifests. The process required me to compare a warehouse and an office manifest and account for discrepancies greater than 500 items. Passing this data into two CSVs allowed me to lean on Python’s built-in CSV library to build a script which completes what previously took hours out of my week in under 5 seconds.

Items that diverge by more than 500 stock are printed.

In the script above, item numbers that diverge by more than 500 stock are printed. Other items that appear on one list but not the other are parsed with the exception handler and printed as a double-check for the operator (me). Shoutout to fellow Chicago Pythoneer and ChiPy member Ryan Koch for his help with exceptions.

A less practical but more fun project nearing completion is a meeting cost calculator for Federal civilian employees. The user enters all the attendees at a meeting, using requests, Python pulls the public employee salary data from an API, and the cost of the meeting in calculated in real time.

I’m having a blast and am looking forward to continuing to share more with my fellow mentees and the Chicago Python community!

Protesting doesn’t “DO” anything

The other day a colleague told me that he doesn’t understand why people block the streets and disrupt his commute to protest. According to him, protesting doesn’t “DO” anything.

Immigration Ban Protest at Chicago’s Federal Plaza | source: wikimedia

When I questioned him further he told me “no serious policy change” has come about as a result of protest action. After I cited the civil rights movement of the 1960s, I was told “well that was different.”

Why?

These protests sprung from the centuries-old, systemic oppression of people of color by whites. The entire movement can be attributed to a marginalized minority group with no other course of redress. A government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” consisted and served only the interests of white Americans. Folks of color, primarily black people, were so disenfranchised and downtrodden by the societal apparatus that they had no other way to express themselves, vent their frustration, or be heard.

In the days before the Internet and social media, taking to the streets was akin to sharing a status or posting to a trending hashtag. Standing up for what you believe in, disrupting a majority group’s privilege, being heard, and being seen is, quite frankly, DOING a lot.

Congressman John Lewis as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is beaten by white police officers on March 7, 1965. | source: US Embassy The Hague

Being in the streets, eating up government resources, reminding the majority that America does not stand for tyranny, and disrupting a status quo that seeks to dehumanize and disenfranchise minority groups calls attention. It calls a lot of attention.

But what about “counter-protesters”? Don’t they call a lot of attention too?

Today: A Trump rally where a black woman is beaten and verbally abused. Is it so different from a crowd of white people beating, fire hosing, and turning dogs upon black people in the streets?

Today: “Counter-protesters” in Berkeley who beat victims senseless while the police look on with indifference, or are complicit themselves. Dallas. Ferguson. Detroit. Cleveland. Baton Rouge.

A 1942 sign in a Detroit suburb. Make America Great Again? | source: wikimedia

So “counter-protesting” is not a real thing. It’s a term coined by modern day oppressors to whitewash acts of intimidation. Extra-judicial killings of minorities are not new to America. The shame of lynching, abuse, and systematic violence as a form of oppression continues.

The extra-judicial killing, lynching, of Laura Nelson in May 1911. | source: wikimedia

Recently race-based violence has superseded justice and imposed death sentences upon Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, and Laquan McDonald. for being of color. And it keeps happening. Again. And again.

So the next time you hear someone speaking from a place blinded by a history of privilege, check them. Check yourself. And acknowledge that protesting is a legitimate way of DOING something. Anything. For some people, it’s the only option they have.

ChiPy: Python, Snake Charming, and Civic Tech

ChiPy (pronounced ‘chi,’ as in “chip,” ‘pee’) is a Chicago-based Python user group. Opening their doors to members of all-levels, ChiPy is a supportive space where novice programmers like me can sharpen their skills in a non-judgmental community. I was thrilled to be part of a small group selected to participate in ChiPy’s sixth iteration of of its nationally acclaimed Mentorship Program.

Upon embarking on this 12-week journey into the world of computer programming (which turns 70 today), I was fascinated with the magic of technology. Learning Python, to me, was akin to charming snakes. The earliest records of snake charming can be traced back to ancient Egypt where charmers acted as mystical healers and consultants to their clients. Using their magical ability to charm snakes, snake charming grew into a venerable and respected profession in the ancient world.

Fast forward to modern times, and I find myself enamored with the power of computing. As a full-time bureaucrat and millennial by birth, I find these components of my identity at odds. Why am I struggling day in, day out to use labor-intensive, manual processes on geriatric computer systems when, as Code for America’s Chicago Brigade Leader, Christopher Whitaker writes in his book, we have the power of a 1950s supercomputer in our pockets? As I was completing a weekly manual review of thousands of lines of XML containing addresses and order numbers, and comparing two CSVs side-by-side in Excel, I couldn’t help but think: there has to be a better way.

But how?

As a digital marketer by profession in the public service industry, I’ve been a regular attendee of Chi Hack Night, a weekly civic technology hackathon. Notably I supported the Chicago Nursing Home Search project by translating marketing graphics into Spanish for their launch. I also document the pre-hack meetings for the Chicago chapter of Young Government Leaders. While using my talents to support the civic tech movement is rewarding, I couldn’t help but notice all these cool applications changing the face of how social services and the public good can intersect with modern innovation in the digital age.

Yet I barely had the skills to create a basic HTML website from another developer’s template. Reenter ChiPy.

I am simultaneously humbled and floored to be working with my mentor Chris Foresman, a senior developer with Sprout Social, Ars Technica contributor, former indie record producer, dad, and all-round badass.

In the three weeks that we have been working together, I have used the Python CSV library to automate what was once a tedious, manual process in my day job. Chris’s Purdue computer science background really adds an interesting level of theoretical depth on how each line of code is parsed by the operating system and executed by the computer’s hardware. I find that my mentor’s formal education combined with a successful career as a technology writer and over six years of professional experience as a developer makes for an incredible learning experience. The patience and wisdom that come from having a three-year-old son at home also aren’t lost on me and greatly appreciated.

Next up, Chris and I plan to use Beautiful Soup and Requests to build an app that calculates the cost of meetings conducted by federal employees. Another tool I hope will encourage attention to transparency, efficiency, and efficacy in my line of work.

Image result for requests http for humans

Towards the end of the 12-week experience, I hope to have time left to pick Chris’s brain about APIs.

Free Maribel Trujillo Diaz

Photo courtesy the Trujillo Family.

CLINIC needs your help as we work to keep Maribel Trujillo Diaz, a mother of four from Hamilton, Ohio, from being deported back to Mexico, a country she has not called home in 15 years. Currently her deportation is scheduled for Tuesday, April 11.

Maribel is the primary financial provider for her family, which includes a three-year-old child who suffers from seizures and a husband who is unable to work full time. She was brought to Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s attention in 2007 during an immigration raid at a Koch Foods, Inc. chicken plant. She was not charged with a crime then, and has complied with her mandatory check-ins over the years.

During her April 3 check-in, she was told she was not a priority for deportation, and to come back in May. Nevertheless, she was picked up by ICE two days later, while on her way to work. Maribel is the latest victim of inconsistent immigration policies and practices by the current administration. We are told recent arrivals and people with criminal records are the priorities for deportation, but more often people like Maribel are being taken from their families.

We are including CLINIC’s press release expressing our outrage surrounding Maribel’s detainment and scheduled deportation, as well as a statement from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Here are a few news stories telling Maribel’s story:

·        Cincinnati.comhttp://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/politics/2017/04/06/archdioese-cincinnati-calls-scheduled-deportation-fairfield-mother-cruel-and-unnaceptable/100117634/

·         The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/06/ice-immigration-maribel-trujillo-deportation-mexico

·         WHIO: http://www.whio.com/news/local/mexican-woman-with-work-permit-detained-ice-near-her-fairfield-home/eGCbXjLwhao8zvCg53sXqM/

·         The Hamilton Journal: http://www.journal-news.com/news/local/mexican-woman-with-work-permit-detained-ice-near-her-fairfield-home/eGCbXjLwhao8zvCg53sXqM/

·         The Catholic Telegraph: http://www.thecatholictelegraph.com/archdiocese-decries-ice-removal-of-mother-of-four/40844

·         Fusion: http://fusion.net/ice-seized-a-mother-of-special-needs-kids-with-no-crimi-1794090284

·         Univision: http://www.univision.com/noticias/inmigracion/el-dilema-de-una-madre-indocumentada-detenida-en-ohio-que-hacer-con-sus-4-hijos-estadounidenses

We are generating support by collecting signatures with this petition, and amplifying our message to ICE (@ICEgov) and the Department of Homeland Security (@DHSgov) using the hashtags #FreeMaribel or #MaribelLibertad. Specifically, supporters are encouraged to contact their members of Congress to speak up for Maribel and work to have her released.

Ohio residents, especially, should to contact Sens. Rob Portman, R-OH, and Sherrad Brown, D-OH. Portman can be can be reached via fax at 614-469-7719, and his Twitter handle is @senrobportman. Brown’s twitter handle is @SenSherrodBrown.

Sample tweets include:

·         I support the release of Maribel Trujillo! Her family needs her. @ICEgov @DHSgov #FreeMaribel

·         Making immigrants like Maribel leave does not make the country safer. It only terrorizes vulnerable people. @ICEgov @DHSgov #FreeMaribel

·         @ICEgov @DHSgov Returning Maribel to Mexico would put her life at risk, and potentially the lives of her U.S. citizen children. #FreeMaribel

·         @ICEgov @DHSgov Separating young children from their mother will cause unnecessary harm. I am against #detention and #deportation. #FreeMaribel

Here are some message points on which we want the conversation to focus:

·         Maribel is the primary breadwinner for her family. Deporting her would leave four U.S. her children without their mother’s care, or potentially force these citizens to leave the only home they have ever known for a country they’ve never even visited.

·         Maribel fled her home state in Mexico because of the extreme violence and terror inflicted by gangs and cartels. Her father was a victim of that violence less than two years ago. It is irresponsible to send her, and potentially her U.S. citizen children, into such harsh conditions.

·         For years under previous administrations, the U.S. government was not concerned about Maribel because she was an upstanding member of her community. Now, the current administration is using her, and others like her, to “make a point” that they are being tough on immigration. Taking immigrants without properly notifying their families and attorneys is unacceptable. The U.S. government should not be in the business of making people disappear, or harming families to push a political agenda.

·         As a lay leader in her parish, Maribel is an important part of her community. Last year, when Maribel was close to deportation, thousands of her supporters throughout Butler County and Cincinnati sent letters, pleading for her to stay. A woman like Maribel, tied to her community and working hard to support her family, is no threat to public safety and is not a flight risk.

If you are in or near Cincinnati, Ohio, please encourage people to participate in the “Mercy for Maribel” prayer service at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 9, to pray that she will not be deported, but be allowed to remain with her loving family in Hamilton.

Participants will gather at St. Joseph Church, 171 Washington Street, Hamilton, Ohio 45011, which is at the corner of Second and Washington Streets.  From there, they will pray the rosary in a procession from the church to the Butler County jail, about a 10-minute walk away.

Please follow our social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter (@cliniclegal) to stay up-to-date on Maribel’s case. We are also working to reopen her asylum case in the meantime.